Sunday, July 28, 2013

Don't believe the hype

In 1987 during the beginning of the golden era of hip-hop, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee's 'Public Enemy' produced a rap anthem entitled 'Don't believe the hype'. In typical Chuck D fashion he lyrically explained why you can't believe everything you hear. During last night's UFC on Fox 8 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White, in his own typical fashion, explained the same thing.

White was clearly not happy with the performance put on by top welterweight (170 lbs.) contenders Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald (pictured above) and honestly I can't blame him; which brings me to a couple of questions. Does a fighter have a responsibility to himself or the company and the consumer? My second question is how much sense of responsibility should fighters feel to deliver when moved up on a fight card; in this case the co-main event?

In the world of combat sports, whether it is boxing or mixed martial arts, one loss, especially when you're at contender status can be extremely crucial. In the UFC, there have been fighters with win streaks and were on the verge of a title shot that have lost it all due to one critical defeat. Just ask Ellenberger who was coming off a two-fight win streak and had won eight out of his previous nine before losing last night via unanimous decision. Prior to that loss, he was ranked as high as number three and no less than fourth in most welterweight polls.

A win against MacDonald, who was virtually in the same ranking position depending on which poll you looked at, would have put him in prime position for a title shot. So, why didn't he go after it as a fighter who had that much on the line? By the same token, why didn't MacDonald do the same? Sure he won, but is a lackluster win more convincing than an exciting loss?

Truth is, when fighters get to the level of top contender status, it is the way they perform under that pressure which separates the truly great fighters from the good ones. When number one welterweight contender Johny Hendricks, after a five fight win streak, was bypassed for a title shot that inexplicably went to Nick Diaz, he went out and won a convincing unanimous decision against former interim champ Carlos Condit.

Condit on the other hand although he was defeated and is in the midst of two losses in a row, has lost virtually no ground in the rankings based on his performances in those fights.  As a matter of fact, Condit is still ranked in the top five of all polls and has a pivotal fight coming up against top 10 ranked Martin Kampmann, which could cause a stir at the top with a convincing victory; especially considering the way MacDonald won against Ellenberger.

Some fighters believe that winning, above all else, is all that counts; obviously that's the way MacDonald felt jabbing his way to victory. However while that may be true in the "sport" of MMA, in the "business" of the UFC, where selling fights is just as, if not more, important; performance and not necessarily victory is what counts. Dana White as a promoter has to be able to sell a fight, to both networks that put up a lot of money for the right to televise these events and also to us the consumer who pay for entertainment when the all important pay-per-views come around.

Before a fight, combatants can talk all the smack they want against each other, as Ellenberger and MacDonald did leading up to theirs on Saturday night. They can even make it seem like its personal; no one is better at this than the great Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in boxing; but when it is time to put up, if all you do is clam up, then I reiterate what Chuck D says, "Don't believe the hype."

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